An Addiction to Newness

I blog about this every so often (or at least I think I do), so forgive me if you’ve heard this one before, but I have an addiction to newness. And the reason I’m blogging about it is because, at least at the present moment, it’s become particularly irritating.

So what do I mean, and why does it bother me?

Because I haven’t seen a lot written about it, I’m not sure what the technical term is for it, so I can really only describe the symptoms for me. But it works like this:

I’m at my happiest when I’m starting a new project or buying or otherwise acquiring something new. The things that I get most excited about are new projects that I haven’t even begun or new objects that I don’t own.

That may not make perfect sense, so I’ll tell you how it breaks down across a number of areas:

Books – I love collecting books more than I like reading them. So subsequently I have approximately 150 unread books sitting at home that I haven’t read. Some of them dating back to when I was a teenager. And this 150, mind you, is after I culled all the books that I was kidding myself that I would ever get to read in the next 10 years. However, even despite having all this reading mapped out, I still often feel the urge to buy more.

Films – I have a reasonable DVD collection at home and several TV series on DVD on the go. And yet  I’m always excited by the idea of starting another TV series or watching another movie – much more so than finishing the ones I’m watching.

People – I love meeting new people. I always find it quite exciting to be in a room with a bunch of people that I haven’t met. The possibilities are endless. However, I find it really hard to maintain contact with most of my friends. (I feel a bit better this week because I organised a picnic to catch up with some of my friends from Brisbane, but still that was more of an exception.)

Where newness gets particularly draining is online:

Email – I’m always checking my email (which can be done even more frequently if you’re carrying an iPhone with you). Why? Because there might be a new email in there to make life exciting. However, I don’t show anywhere near as much interest in replying to emails that I already have.

RSS – I love coming across a blog that sounds good to read. So I add it to the RSS reader. But then I have hundreds of posts coming in, which I feel obligated to catch up with, and that takes time too. But I like them, because they’re new.

Window Shopping – I also find that if I go into any sort of store, like a CD or a DVD store, that I find myself eyeing off new things that I could get stuck into. And I like big new things as well. (100 CDs of Beethoven’s music? Sounds great! 32 DVDs of Seinfeld? Yeah, it’d be great fun to watch all them!)

However, I have lots of these sort of projects sitting at home, with virtually nothing happening to them. I’m still not completely finished all the extras on The Lord of the Rings extended editions, but I’ve bought lots of DVDs in the meantime. I’m still midway through The Complete Sandman. I do actually own the aforementioned 100-CD Beethoven set, and I’m still listening to that as well.

And let me tell you, good as these things all are, they were most exciting when they were in the bag on the way home from the shops (or when I first ripped open the parcel when it got mailed to me). After that, they become ordinary, less exciting. Still good, mind you, but not as exciting as the thing I don’t own or the thing I haven’t started. And I could point to hundreds of things, and possibly thousands of dollars I’ve spent on things which I want to do/read/watch one day, that I’m still not finished yet.

The closest I’ve come to a diagnosis of why I like new stuff so much is really, I think, the Bible’s teaching on contentment and wealth. While some people like to read the Bible and find a justification for a left-wing agenda, there’s not a lot of that in there really. There’s plenty of wealthy people in the Bible who followed God, and they only got wealthier. There’s not really anything wrong with that.

But the people who do get a mention and a talking to, are those people who make their life revolve around their stuff and particularly their pursuit of stuff. This I completely understand. If you’re not careful, you hit a point where the stuff means a lot less than the actual acquiring of stuff. But at least in my observation, I don’t think that’s just limited to things you buy. It could be that all of this is symptomatic of a discontentment with the things you’ve got, and a drive to get more / consume more. Which is really a way of saying that newness is becoming the focus of your life, the thing that determines what you do and don’t do. In the Bible, anything that determines what you do and don’t do is usually called your idol or your god. You may not think of it in those terms, but it is helpful for me to be reminded about how strong this thing actually is.

I’ll talk more about this hopefully over the course of the month, because to counteract this drive for newness, I’m going to implement something I tried a couple of years ago (which I found really effective) called a Newness Block. The idea was to see if I could stem the flow of newness into my life and free up more mental energy for other things. So I’m going to give it a try again. I’ll come back soon and explain a bit more about what it involves. You never know, if you’re as addicted to newness as I am, you might like to join in…

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4 thoughts on “An Addiction to Newness

  1. I remember the last newness block – here’s hoping this one goes just as well!

    On a similar theme, have you seen the SolaPanel post on the dangers of overseas travel? http://solapanel.org/article/the_danger_of_overseas_travel/

    Advertisers thrive on that inherent human weakness of newness. And the thing is – it’s not even sinful per-se, because I think it comes from the same part that makes us curious about the world and has led to all sorts of discoveries in all sorts of fields over the course of history.

    But when temptation wins (and this is mainly with regard to posessions and relationships) and the newness drive becomes less about curiosity and discovery and more about discontentment and ego/self-satisfaction, that’s when I think we’ve hit idolatry.

    Maybe “newness” can become the new (how ironic) thing for people to give up during lent? ;)

  2. Thanks for the post on travel, Dave. It’s pretty good. I found that in Brisbane being stranded within walking distance of Chermside Shopping Centre… I wanted to spend more because it was holidays and I was away from home.

  3. I’m here scouring the Internet for a cure of what ails me. I am addicted to newness as well! This blog post really spoke to me, particularly with emails and books. I actually exhaust myself reading, because I am innately curious about everything!!!! I am not so much an aquirer of stuff, but where I run into trouble is job hopping! I cannot breathe until I am off somewhere else, doing something else, learning something else, and it’s never long before I’m wondering, “what else?” It doesn’t particularly bother me, but I do think people regard it as unusual, and I would like to learn how people stay satisfied doing the same thing for years. I haven’t stuck with a single job past 8 months in the past four years. I’m guessing something’s wrong with that.

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